Cosmological Arguments

Cosmological Arguments: General Overview

  • Cosmological arguments are types of arguments from contingency, which posit that everything in the universe is contingent, or dependent upon something else for its existence.
  • They seek to provide a logically valid argument for the existence of god derived entirely from empirical observation.
  • The term ‘cosmological’ is derived from the Greek word ‘kosmos’, meaning world or universe. These arguments thus focus on aspects of the universe to infer the existence of god.
  • The main premise of cosmological arguments generally involves the assertion that the universe began to exist at a certain point or is contingent in nature.

Key Varieties of Cosmological Arguments

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • The Kalam cosmological argument is a modern formulation of the cosmological argument, which argues that the universe had a beginning, and thus a cause which must be transcendent and powerful.
  • It famously stipulates that an infinite sequence of past events is a logical impossibility and thus there must have been a commencement.
  • This argument was initially put forward by medieval Islamic philosophers such as Al-Ghazali but has been revitalised in recent philosophy by William Lane Craig.

Aquinas’ First Way - Argument from Motion

  • Thomas Aquinas, a medieval philosopher and theologian, presented five ways to prove god’s existence.
  • His first way, known as the Argument from Motion, posits that things in motion must have been set in motion by something else.
  • Aquinas concludes with the concept of a Prime Mover, or a non-contingent entity that started all motion but itself remains unmoved.

Aquinas’ Second Way - Argument from Cause

  • Another of Aquinas’ cosmological arguments, known as the Argument from Cause, builds on the premise that every effect has a cause.
  • Aquinas contends that one can’t have an infinite regression of causes (causes causing causes ad infinitum), so he suggests there must be a uncaused first cause, which he identifies as God.

Arguments about the Cosmological Argument

Critiques and Counter-Critiques

  • The cosmological argument has been subject to much critique and counter critique.
  • A key criticism is the idea of the fallacy of composition, which stipulates that just because parts of the universe are contingent, it doesn’t follow that the universe as a whole is contingent.
  • Challenges also come from the concept of infinity, which may not be impossible as the Kalam argument suggests, and the notion that if everything needs a cause, then so too must god.
  • Refutations to these critiques often involve paradigms about necessarily existent entities and the definition of god as non-contingent or as the ‘exception’ to the rule of causality.

The Advantages of the Cosmological Argument

  • Supporters of the cosmological argument maintain that it offers a logical, empirical means to infer the existence of god.
  • This argument can also complement other proofs of god’s existence, providing a complete and holistic case when combined.